In photo: Lots of greens. Minda shows off her vegetables from their backyard garden | Photo by Aliana Gene Sarmiento for Action Against Hunger


Everyday life is hard enough for 60-year-old Ermilinda “Minda” Mecate-Compra from Barangay Matin-ao, Burgos, Surigao del Norte. It became more difficult ever since Typhoon Odette devasted their town on December 16, 2021.

Referred to as “Nanay Minda” by family and neighbors, her daily routine starts from tending to her vegetable garden, to fetching water, chopping firewood, and caring for her sick husband. For income, she weaves mats and helps around with a local store being run by a group of fellow community members. She does all these, despite her age, to put food on the table for the two of them.

Mag ono man ako na ako ra man. “I have no choice but to do this all by myself,” says Minda.

Her 70-year-old husband, Teodoro, has lung and kidney complications. For most of the day, Teodoro is bedridden but tries to stand and feed himself when Minda is working. They have eleven children, and three of them died young due to sickness. The rest are married and have families of their own.

In photo: Nanay Minda tends to her sick husband at home | Photo by Aliana Gene Sarmiento for Action Against Hunger

Little did they know that their living situation will take a turn for the worst after December 16, 2021— when Typhoon Odette (internationally named as Rai) left them with a damaged home, no livelihood, and worsening Teodoro’s health.

Bracing the storm

During the typhoon, Minda evacuated her husband to their village leader’s house. She came back to their home to try to save her woven mats and secure their home, but with the flood water entering, Minda gave eventually gave up. She ran back to her husband amid the violent winds and prayed hard to spare their lives from the wrath. Her heart sank as she watched their house flattened by Typhoon Odette.

After the disaster, they relied on money from their children, and rations of food and supplies.

Grabe namo kalisod tinood pero kami nagsalig lamang sa Ginoo. “Life is so difficult for us, to be honest but we put our trust in God,” says Minda.

Immediate life-saving support

The Typhoon Odette Response of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) lead by Action Against Hunger in Caraga immediately delivered hygiene kits and household items such as blankets, cooking materials, utensils, and more to typhoon-affected families in Matin-ao last December 2021. Since water supply is a problem for the barangay, the project installed a 1-cubic meter tank and provides 6,000 liters of safe water every day. Minda and her husband were among the families reached by this initial assistance.

In photo: Nanay Minda attends the orientation on the emergency recovery market system assistance | Photo by Aliana Gene Sarmiento for Action Against Hunger

With further support from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, Minda is also one of the recipients of the cash support for food supplies, amounting to 5,150 pesos. She also received cash assistance for livelihood restoration amounting to 10,150 pesos which she invested in their store.

Road to early recovery

Minda is slowly building their house back with light materials they can afford. She returns to planting vegetables in their backyard again using seedlings she received the seedlings from the barangay ─ plants like bitter gourd, cabbage, and some high-valued ones like basil, kale, and coriander. This is a small win for Minda, since their group used to have a farm that supplies restaurants in main towns with fresh vegetables prior to Typhoon Odette.

Even faced with the challenges, Minda remains hopeful because of the USAID-funded project’s support. She is grateful to Action Against Hunger and partner organizations for helping them get back on their feet.

In photo: Minda’s interview in her home at Barangay Danao, Surigao City (Photo by Aliana Gene Sarmiento for Action Against Hunger)

The “Emergency Assistance to Support Local Recovery Capacity of Families and Communities Affected by Typhoon Odette in Caraga,” an emergency response project funded by the USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) which is jointly implemented by Action Against Hunger PhilippinesCARE PhilippinesACCORD Incorporated, Agri-Aqua Development Coalition – Mindanao, and Relief International. 

Written by Aliana Gene Sarmiento, edited by Joyce Sandajan